Augustus Desiré Waller

Augustus Desiré Waller (1856 – 1922)

Augustus Desiré Waller (1856 – 1922) was an British physiologist.

In 1887 he used a Lippmann’s capillary electrometer…and a toy train,to record the first human electrocardiogram (ECG)

1891 proposed the expression for normal systolic duration, which Henry Cuthbert Bazett converted into the Bazett Formula for the measurement of QTc in 1920

Physiology dominated Waller’s life. He had a home laboratory where his wife Alice Palmer (biscuit heiress of Huntley and Palmer) and 5 children participated and dog Jimmie took part in his experiments.

His daughter Mary remembered packing for a trip and her mother asking the children what things they wanted to take, adding ‘but don’t forget, Father has bagged the galvanometer‘.

  • Born 18 July 1856 Paris, France
  • 1881 – MD, Aberdeen University
  • 1883 – Lecturer in physiology at the School of Medicine for Women, London
  • 1884 – Lecturer in physiology at St Mary’s Hospital
  • 1897 – Fullerian Professor of Physiology
  • Died 11 March 1922

Key Medical Attributions

1887 – Waller used a capillary electrometer to record the first human electrocardiogram. Surface electrodes were strapped to the front and back of the chest producing two distorted deflections: ventricular depolarization and repolarization. He attached his equipment to a slowly moving toy train, allowing him to record the heart’s activity in real time.

The first experiment was made in the St Mary’s laboratory in May 1887 and demonstrated there to many physiologists, among others to my friend Prof Einthoven of Leiden – Waller 1912

Waller 1887 first ECG in human

Waller often demonstrated the electrogram using his dog “Jimmy” who would patiently stand with paws in glass jars of saline

Augustus Waller and Jimmy the dog

Interesting facts

AD Waller was the son of Augustus Volnay Waller (1816–1870). AV Waller is remembered for:

  • Diapedesis: His thesis involved examination of the frog’s tongue micro-circulation. Waller observed white blood cells (but not red ones) could squeeze between capillary cells.
  • Wallerian degeneration of the nerves: Sections of frog’s tongue to show nerves produced ‘necklaces of droplets‘ (degenerating myelin) on one side of the cut – an indication of the direction in which the nerve normally conducted.

Major Publications



Eponymous terms

eponymictionary CTA


the person behind the name

Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and informatics. Asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | vocortex |

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